Adventure Meets Wine
Words and pics Franki Black
There is a place in the mountains where a broad river meanders its way past vineyards, olive groves and fruit farms. Here the folded mountains are higher than Table Mountain and hot springs bubble from far below to the earth’s surface. It is said that this place has the best mountain climbing and biking terrain in the country and the people who live in the area love it so much that many are going on six generations. This is the Robertson Valley. Stretching from Robertson to Bonnievale to Montagu, this exquisite area is a two-hour drive from Cape Town and the ultimate choice for a break from the city. Most of the towns and wine farms in this valley are cycling distances apart, thereby making it ideal for a slow journey through the countryside.
Wine tasting at Weltevrede wine estate.
Adventure Hub: Montagu
I join the Prasa Rail Tourism team for a two-day excursion of the area’s highlights. Our adventure starts in Montagu, a town that has been rated the best in South Africa and known for being the adventure capital of the Western Cape. On average, 1000 rock-climbers from around the world flock to Montagu to take on its quarzitic mountains. There are over 300 established climbing routes in the area and one of these - Mazawattee - is said to be the most dangerous and most famous in South Africa. Montagu Rock Climbing offers packages for beginner and experienced climbers and all gear is available for rent.
For those who prefer more down-to-earth action, opt to hike along Montagu’s beautiful mountain trails or sign up for a multiday mountain-biking tour. Langeberg MTB Tours offers three to four day cycling trips on single-track and on country backroads. Each trip is customized to the fitness and experience levels of the group and accommodation is prearranged for every night. Daily distances covered range from 10 to 100 kilometres and groups vary in size from one to eight cyclists.
Avalon Springs in Montagu.
For a more leisurely nature experience, hop aboard for a tractor ride offered at the Protea Farm situated 30 kilometres outside of Montagu. This excursion has become iconic to the area, attracting 7000 visitors each year. You’re taken to the highest peaks of the berg and your day is concluded with lunch consisting of ‘potjiekos’, ‘vetkoek; and ‘moer-koffie’.
Montagu itself is a postcard-perfect town, ideal for street walking and stoep sitting, so whether you’re hanging off a cliff face or nibbling on dried fruit at the local ‘padstal’, be sure to stop over for at least a day or two.
The Wine Route
The big drawcard in the area is of course wine. Wine estates, restaurants and boutique guesthouses can be found across the valley and every year festivals such as Wacky Wine and Slow celebrate the bounties of the valley. We leave Montagu and twenty minutes later we’re on a road that our guide describes as the most beautiful wine route in the world.
River cruises at Viljoensdrift, Robertson.
It’s the stretch between Bonnievale and Robertson and it is indeed a feast for the eyes. Lush vineyards stretch into the distance, a river snakes by and pockets of tall trees form oases along the way. We stop at the Weltevrede Wine Estate for a guided tour of its underground vault, dating back to 1930. These tours can be coupled with wine tastings and candle-lit dinners on request.
Next we stop at the Van Loveren Family Vineyards for lunch. Juicy burgers and thin-crusted pizzas are served. Famous for its Four Cousins wine range and its magnificent gardens, Van Loveren is a one-stop shop in its own right. Go on a guided garden tour, sign up for one of eight food-and-wine pairings or head into the vineyards on foot or on bicycle.
After lunch, we head next door to the Viljoensdrift Estate for the screening of a film on the valley. Viljoensdrift also offers river cruises on the hour and a deli from where one can collect a picnic basket and a bottle of wine to take along. Our day concludes with visits to the Excelsior, Rosendale and Tanagra estates and an interactive olive and olive oil tasting experience at the Marbrin Olive Farm.
Marbrin Olive Growers.
Hot Water Springs
Our overnight destination is the Avalon Springs Hotel in Montagu. Nestled in between folded mountains, Avalon Springs boasts plenty of entertainment for all ages and a number of interconnected pools that are fed by natural springs. There’s a life-sized chess board, a putt-putt course, a super-tube, a pool bar and toys for kids. At night we walk past sheer cliff faces plummeting down to meet the pools in which families and friends chatter and drift in a variety of temperatures.
Robertson & Beyond
In the morning, we make our way to Robertson where the streets are purple-carpeted with Jacaranda flowers. We stop by the Nerina Guest Farm. The owner describes their river cruise offering as the unsophisticated version of what you can expect at Viljoensdrift’s. Nevertheless, here you can cruise gently among the reeds, while feasting on traditional ‘boerekos’. You can also join a guided rafting trip, arranged through the Robertson Backpackers, which includes lunch and plenty of breaks to cool off in the Breede River. Our birds’ eye view of the Robertson Valley comes to an end with a brief tour of the Klipdrift Brandy Factory and a taste of its prized liqueur: Black Gold. Our journey home takes us past the exquisite Du Toitskloof Valley, through the Huguenot Tunnel and onwards to Table Mountain.
Country roads, Robertson Wine Valley.
Montagu Rock Climbing:
www.montaguclimbing.com, +27 (0) 82 696 4067, +27 (0) 23 614 3193
Rosendal Wellness Retreat:
[email protected], +27 (0) 23 626 1570
Marbrin Olive Growers:
Rafting Route 62:
River cruising at Nerina Guest farm.
Source: Travel Ideas